Death Row Kids Finding a Better Solution to the Juvenile Death Penalty

UNCP Author/Contributor (non-UNCP co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kristy L. Archer (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP )
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Abstract: In the maximum-security Indiana Women's Prison in Indianapolis, Paula Cooper, a twenty-six year old woman, sits in prison and awaits the death penalty. She is the youngest woman ever sentenced to death. On May 14, 1985, as the age fifteen, Paula and three of her friends went to the house of seventy-eight year old Ruth Pelke. After giving an excuse of wanting Bible school lessons, the girls entered the house, ransacked it, and then brutally stabbed Ruth to death (Bryodo, 1998, p. 16). Without a trial or a jury, the judge sentenced Paula to die in the electric chair (Bryodo, 1998, p. 16). She was blamed for Ruth's death, while the other three accomplices only received long terms of imprisonment (Broydo, 1998, p. 16). Although Paula possesses the laugh and voice of the average young adult, she is experienced beyond her years. Throughout her childhood, Paula was abused by her father. Her mother's solution was to attempt suicide and to take Paula with her. When her mother's plan was not followed through, Paula's response was to become a chronic run-away (Broydo, 1998, p.17). The judge of her case never considered the fact that Paula was a product of an unloving family (Broydo, 1998, p.17). Paula's attorney felt that her personal background was not presented strongly at her sentencing trial. He believes that if the past had been addressed, then the severe punishment would not have resulted (Broydo, 1998, p.18).Paula's case adds to the controversy of juvenile capital punishment. There are some supporters who say that a teenager capable of committing such a brutal murder deserves the "chair". On the other hand, Paula was fifteen at the time and did not know the consequences of murder. Even though she committed an adult crime, did she really deserve the death penalty? Paula's friends face long imprisonment which allows the girls time to mature and to rehabilitate (Broydo, 1998, p.18). Capital punishment is an excessive punishment for juveniles; rehabilitation, through prison or community programs, results in the same crime deterrent and provides juvenile delinquents a second chance. In addition, these condemned juveniles are stripped of ever providing some utility and serving a purpose in our society.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2000
Paula Cooper, Death Sentence, Indianapolis, Ruth Pelke, Murder, Rehabilitation,

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